With his good looks and soft-spoken demeanor, Alan Ladd redefined cinema’s ‘tough guy’ across genres, replacing scar-faced gangsters and grizzled cowboys with the smooth-operating loner. Ladd’s early life reads like The Grapes of Wrath – he pulled himself and his family out of the poverty that drove them west with the rest of the lower class. Despite his circumstances, Ladd trained for the 1932 Olympics, but when an injury ended one dream, he followed another – acting. It was his fourth-billed role as a psychotic killer in 1942’s This Gun for Hire that made Ladd a star. He continued landing similar roles throughout the decade, adding nuance to the typically thick-skinned character types that would define his career. Ladd paved the way for every sensitive anti-hero who would come after him.